Second-term MLAs have plenty to lose with snap election call

Want another reason why a quick BC election wouldn’t be a good idea for the Liberal caucus?

I can give you almost 400,000 of them.

A snap BC election held before May 2019 could cost second-term MLAs more than just their seat in the provincial legislature.

A loss at the polls could also cost them their MLA pensions.

That’s because, according to the Members Remuneration and Pensions Act, an MLA “is not entitled to a pension unless he or she has served in the Legislature for at least six years.”

As a bit of foundation, it makes sense to explain how the MLA Pension Plan works.

Members contribute 11% of their pre-tax salary to pension. Taxpayers then add four dollars for each dollar the member contributes. On a base salary of $109,000, an MLA’s pension principal will grow by almost $60,000 each year.

MLAs who don’t acquire that six years of service get back their contributions (with interest); they forfeit government contributions — a loss of almost $50,000 a year (or $200,000 over the first four years of their terms.)

For those MLAs who were first elected in May 2013 — there are 24 of them, including 18 Liberals, five New Democrats and Green Leader Andrew Weaver — six years of service doesn’t occur until May 2019.

It makes you wonder what might be going through the minds of those 24 MLAs — especially Liberal MLAs — as they ponder what appears to be a Liberal strategy to force a snap provincial election.

Almost $400,000 in free money set aside for retirement is a mighty big inducement for someone pondering their political future.

On the plus side, an MLA leaving public service is entitled to “severance — 15 month’s pay based on the current base MLA salary of $109,000.

In addition to the severance, MLAs can also collect up to $9,000 to pay for “career counselling, education and training.”

About $120,000 on the one hand and around $400,000 on the other.

The math would suggest there are 18 Liberal MLAs who might have a little more on the table as the party’s leadership rolls the dice — even if that gamble is coldly calculated.

The calculating is particularly cruel for Liberal MLAs who narrowly captured a seat in the May 9 election — especially with some discussion about NDP-Green cooperation.

That thinking would have the NDP and Greens agreeing to not run candidates against one another in any riding. As one pundit describes it, “Incumbents would be protected, and in ridings held by the B.C. Liberals, the party that placed second in the recent election would run a candidate exclusively.”

That takes the Fraser-Nicola’s Jackie Tegart and the Boundary-Similkameen’s Linda Larson — both second-term Liberal MLAs — out of the frying pan and puts them in the fire.

According to ElectionsBC, Ms. Tegart captured her riding by just 592 votes over the NDP candidate. There are, however, another 3,000 votes that went to the Green Party and an Independent.

Ms. Larson, meanwhile, captured her riding with 9,513 votes — 2,238 more than her closest competitor, the NDP’s Colleen Ross, who finished with 7,275.

In any other riding, that might appear to be a comfortable plurality. But in the Boundary-Similkameen an additional 5,439 votes were cast for two other candidates — votes that largely should be considered opposition to the Christy Clark Liberal government.

With an expectation — and this certainly is no sure thing — that both the Green and Independent candidates in the riding determine not to run again if a snap election is quickly orchestrated, Ms. Larson’s plurality could be in considerable jeopardy.

Suddenly an additional 5,439 votes are in play.

Yes, there are other considerations. A snap election likely would not generate voter response in the numbers the May 2017 election did.

And, of course, there’s no guarantee everyone who voted a party or candidate other than Liberal back in May will vote for the opposing New Democrat or Green candidate.

The Liberals are likely banking on that. And they may be right.

But, as one who spent a career calculating risk and response, if I were the MLA for Fraser-Nicola or Boundary-Similkameen, I’d be quietly speaking with my Liberal leadership and expressing my concern — even if it is at odds with the “good of the party.”

Or I might quietly be contemplating the speaker’s chair — “and the good of the province.”

It might not change my mind about being a team player, but it certainly would give me a twitch.

 

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